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The Panama Papers ICIJ Investigation

All Putin’s Men: Secret Records Reveal Money Network Tied to Russian Leader

Putin Panama Papers

All Putin’s Men: Secret Records Reveal Money Network Tied to Russian Leader

By Jake Bernstein, Petra Blum, Oliver Zihlmann, David Thompson, Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer

In this story

  • According to analysis, as much as $2 billion has been secretly shuffled through banks and shadow companies linked to Putin’s associates
  • Bank Rossiya, identified by the U.S. as Putin’s personal cashbox, has been instrumental in building a network of offshore companies
  • Dozens of loans, some worth hundreds of millions of dollars, sold between offshore companies for as little as $1 or less

Vladimir Putin and Sergey Roldugin forged a bond as young men. Fast friends, almost like brothers, they cruised the streets of Leningrad, singing and, in Putin’s case, occasionally getting into fistfights.

As Putin rose to power as Russia’s supreme leader and Roldugin made a name for himself as a classical cellist and conductor, the two remained close. Roldugin has performed for Putin and high-profile guests at the president’s official residence and has given media interviews that softened Putin’s fearsome image.

Now a leak of secret documents reveals another, hidden side of their friendship.

The records show Roldugin is a behind-the-scenes player in a clandestine network operated by Putin associates that has shuffled at least $2 billion through banks and offshore companies, an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung and other media partners has found.

In the documents, Roldugin is listed as the owner of offshore companies that have obtained payments from other companies worth tens of millions of dollars. A company linked to the cellist also grabbed secret influence over Russia’s largest truck maker, another snagged a big slice of Russia’s TV advertising industry.

It’s possible Roldugin, who has publicly claimed not to be a businessman, is not the true beneficiary of these riches. Instead, the evidence in the files suggests Roldugin is acting as a front man for a network of Putin loyalists – and perhaps for Putin himself.

Roldugin did not respond to detailed questions. Reporters from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an ICIJ partner, met briefly with the musician after a concert in Moscow last week. Roldugin told them he needed more time to review the questions and determine what he could say.

About 100 financial deals related to the network are described in the leaked documents. They are complex. Payments are disguised in various ways. On paper, shares in companies are swapped back and forth in a day. Documents are backdated. Questionable financial penalties are assessed. The rights to multimillion-dollar loans are sold between offshore companies for $1.

In almost every instance, the result is the same: money and power moves in the direction of the network, to companies and people allied to Putin. The network’s covert deals allowed it to receive money in a variety of ways including hundreds of millions of dollars in sweetheart loans from a bank controlled by the Russian government.

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Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption

panama papers leak
By The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists

Millions of documents show heads of state, criminals and celebrities using secret hideaways in tax havens.

In this story

  • Files reveal the offshore holdings of 140 politicians and public officials from around the world
  • Current and former world leaders in the data include prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the president of Ukraine, and the king of Saudi Arabia
  • More than 214,000 offshore entities appear in the leak, connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories
  • Major banks have driven the creation of hard-to-trace companies in offshore havensA massive leak of documents exposes the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders and reveals how associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies.The leak also provides details of the hidden financial dealings of 128 more politicians and public officials around the world.The cache of 11.5 million records shows how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.

    These are among the findings of a yearlong investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and more than 100 other news organizations.

    The files expose offshore companies controlled by the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the king of Saudi Arabia and the children of the president of Azerbaijan.

    They also include at least 33 people and companies blacklisted by the U.S. government because of evidence that they’d been involved in wrongdoing, such as doing business with Mexican drug lords, terrorist organizations like Hezbollah or rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.

    One of those companies supplied fuel for the aircraft that the Syrian government used to bomb and kill thousands of its own citizens, U.S. authorities have charged.

    “These findings show how deeply ingrained harmful practices and criminality are in the offshore world,” said Gabriel Zucman, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley and author of “The Hidden Wealth of Nations: The Scourge of Tax Havens.” Zucman, who was briefed on the media partners’ investigation, said the release of the leaked documents should prompt governments to seek “concrete sanctions” against jurisdictions and institutions that peddle offshore secrecy.

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